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What I Really Know About Tough Choices: My Foster Son John

My conversations with the caseworker started and ended the same:

“I have a boy,” Larry said.

“We are not taking any more children,” I said.

My husband, Bruce, and I had fostered children for years. Now we wanted to return to travel, grandchildren, and privacy. But with this boy, Larry wouldn’t give up. We were one of the few families who would take teenage boys. “I have nowhere else to put him,” Larry said.

We agreed to meet the 16-year-old, but made no promises. When John walked into the room, I looked up to see a mouth full of braces and a smile that could melt the hardest heart. We realized that we really had no choice. If we didn’t take John, he’d be sent to a group home for boys, away from the school system where he’d been enrolled his whole life. We had also fallen in love.

It was time to change our lives again. We traded weekends at the beach for high school football and basketball games, set another plate at dinner, stocked up on kid food, and converted our guest room back into a teenage hangout.

That was more than 10 years ago. John has since graduated from high school, with honors, and college. He’s an accountant, buying his first home. When he was 21, we adopted him, adding to our two children and six grandchildren. There’s no other way I would have wanted to spend those years. Raising him has been a privilege.

The AARP Bulletin’s What I Really Know column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Judy Diaddigo is a reader from Gainesville, Ga.

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